Famed composer and Conservative peer Andrew Lloyd Webber reportedly flew across the Atlantic yesterday to make a crucial vote on tax credit cuts, in a desperate bid to save the Government from an embarrassing defeat in the Lords.
Lord Lloyd-Webber, who has been a Tory member in Parliament's upper house since 1997, was hauled in by party whips "desperately" trying to avert losing a key financial vote.
The peer, worth an estimated £650 million, flew from New York to London to help bolster numbers backing a scheme which would have seen one in five families 'worse off', according to The Sun's political editor.
Lord Lloyd-Webber's vote tightened the gap between peers who voted for and against tax credit reforms in the late hours of Monday evening, but ultimately failed to fend off a coalition of bishops, Labour and Crossbench peers.
In a statement to The Huffington Post UK, a spokeswoman for Lord Lloyd-Webber rejected suggestions that taxpayers would foot the bill for the flight, or that the composer had tax-exempting 'non-dom' status.
“Andrew Lloyd Webber flew back from New York at his own expense to attend the opening night of Cats at the London Palladium at 7pm tonight. He is also working with the cast today. Coming back to London allowed him to vote in the House of Lords last night. He has never claimed expenses from the House of Lords.
"He voted last night because he feels that it is important for democracy that the House of Lords should not override decisions made by the elected House of Commons. While there are important constitutional issues concerning the House of Lords, Andrew is pleased that the Chancellor, George Osborne, is reviewing the tax credits situation.
"It is well known that Andrew is a UK resident and has never held non-domicile status. All of his business activities are based in the UK."
The Government lost its own vote by 307 votes to 277, the coup achieved with a majority of 30.
Other peers who voted in favour of tax credit cuts included Lord Fellowes, the creator of ITV series 'Downton Abbey'.
Monday's vote represents the first time in 100 years that the House of Lords has voted down a financial statutory instrument already approved by the House of Commons. A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is determined we will address this constitutional issue. A convention exists and it has been broken. He has asked for a rapid review to see how it can be put back in place."
Earlier in the Lords, Labour peer Patricia Hollis' motion to have a three-year transition for low-paid workers won by 289 votes to 272. It followed another motion tabled by the cross-bench peer Molly Meacher to delay the cuts until ministers spelled out how they would help low-paid workers triumphing by 307 votes to 277. However, a fatal motion, tabled by the Liberal Democrat peer Zahida Manzoor, that would have killed the cuts outright, failed by 310 votes to 99.
Conservatives reacted with anger at the results. Tory backbencher Edward Leigh said: “Not for 100 years has the House of Lords defied this elected House. This is a serious matter and I ask for the speaker to give a statement to protect the rights of the elected representatives, not just for us but for the people of this country.” Theresa May’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, said: “It should and hopefully will have consequences for the House of Lords.”
Labour's John McDonnell said the government defeat should force Osborne to "think again." The shadow chancellor said Britons were "shocked" by the Chancellor's determination to institute the divisive welfare reforms, which would slash £4.4 billion from working tax credits and child tax credits, effecting some of Britain's poorest households.
TAX CREDITS: THE IMPACT
Tax credits are welfare payments to families raising children and working people on low incomes.
More than three million families will lose an average of £1,300 a year from April
The cuts will deliver £4.4bn of the Chancellor’s planned welfare cuts by reducing the earnings level at which tax credits start to be withdrawn from £6,420 to £3,850.
The Government says eight out of 10 would be "better off" overall from a package which also includes increases in the minimum wage for over-25s, rises in the income tax threshold and extended free childcare.